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Kevin Mitchell v. Glenn Austin

December 4, 2012

KEVIN MITCHELL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GLENN AUSTIN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sue E. Myerscough, U.S. District Judge:

E-FILED Tuesday, 04 December, 2012 03:09:12 PM Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

OPINION

Plaintiff, proceeding pro se and incarcerated in Jacksonville Correctional Center, pursues claims arising from an alleged failure to timely treat an infection caused by Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). The case is before the Court for a merit review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

LEGAL STANDARD

The Court is required by § 1915A to review a Complaint filed by a prisoner against a governmental entity or officer and, through such process, to identify cognizable claims, dismissing any claim that is "frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." A hearing is held if necessary to assist the Court in this review, but, in this case, the Court concludes that no hearing is necessary. The Complaint and its attachments are clear enough on their own for this Court to perform its merit review of Plaintiff's Complaint.

The review standard under § 1915A is the same as the notice pleading standard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Zimmerman v. Tribble, 226 F.3d 568, 571 (7th Cir. 2000). To state a claim, the allegations must set forth a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Factual allegations must give enough detail to give "'fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" EEOC v. Concentra Health Serv., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007)(quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)(add'l citation omitted)). The factual "allegations must plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a 'speculative level.'" Id. (quoting Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 555). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged . . . . Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)(citing Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 555-56). However, pro se pleadings are liberally construed when applying this standard. Bridges v. Gilbert, 557 F.3d 541, 546 (7th Cir. 2009).

ALLEGATIONS

Plaintiff alleges that he visited sick call on March 3, 2011 for treatment of a large "pimple" on his buttocks. The nurse told Plaintiff that the bump was a boil and that the boil would burst on its own. Six days later the boil did burst, and a culture of the draining fluid was taken. The culture came back positive for MRSA; Plaintiff was isolated and prescribed antibiotics.

Plaintiff's condition improved, but a few weeks later he began experiencing pain in his right hip. On April 6, 2011, Plaintiff visited the sick call nurse and was told to take Ibuprofen and return in three days if his pain continued. Over the next three days Plaintiff's pain increased and Plaintiff signed up for sick call, but Nurse Ator told Plaintiff that Plaintiff would not be seen. Plaintiff persisted and was eventually able to see Nurse Ator, who admitted Plaintiff to the infirmary and put him in isolation. On April 14 and 16, 2011, Plaintiff received surgery to drain and irrigate the infection in his hip.

ANALYSIS

Plaintiff's claim falls under the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. In the context of medical care for prisoners, cruel and unusual punishment occurs when a Defendant is deliberately indifferent to a serious medical need of a prisoner:

A prisoner's claim for deliberate indifference must establish "(1) an objectively serious medical condition; and (2) an official's deliberate indifference to that condition." Arnett , 658 F.3d at 750. Deliberate indifference is proven by demonstrating that a prison official knows of a substantial risk of harm to an inmate and "either acts or fails to act in disregard of that risk." Id. at 751.

Gomez v. Randle, 680 F.3d 859, 865 (7th Cir. 2012). A condition can be considered serious if, without treatment, the plaintiff suffered "'further significant injury or unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.'" Id. Deliberate indifference does not encompass negligence or even gross negligence. McGowan v. Hulick, 612 F.3d 636, 640 (7th Cir. 2010). Deliberate indifference requires personal knowledge of an inmate's serious medical need and an intentional or reckless disregard of that need. Id.; Hayes, 546 F.3d at 524. Persons without medical training are generally entitled to rely on the diagnosis and treatment decisions of the treating medical professionals. Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 656 (7th Cir. 2005)("'If a prisoner is under the care of medical experts... a non-medical prison official will generally be justified in believing that the prisoner is in capable hands.'")(quoted cite omitted).

Plaintiff allegations show that he had a serious medical need for treatment. Inferring deliberate indifference is more difficult. Dr. Wahl was Plaintiff's treating physician, but Plaintiff does not say whether Dr. Wahl was aware of the recurrence of Plaintiff's pain or of Plaintiff's difficulty obtaining a referral to see a doctor. Dr. Larson's involvement is not specified. However, at this point determinations of deliberate indifference would be premature. An Eighth Amendment claim will proceed against the prison doctors and the prison health care unit administrator. The Court notes that Plaintiff has not named as Defendants the nurses who ...


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